Last night was one of those moments when a 14 year old boy shows a parent the kind of person he has become.
As any parent of a teenager will attest, trying to bring their child out of their angst filled shell into the light of the world is a difficult and trying proposition.
Despite my well documented control freak personality I have done (I think) a pretty decent job in navigating this phase of child development so far with my son. How I do when my baby girl officially morphs from pre-teen to full blown teenager remains to be seen!
With Owen I have learned to leave him to his own thoughts and wonder when it is clear the last thing he desires is my presence within 100 yards of his physical, emotional or intellectual being.
There are his moments of sullenness which makes my skin itch and moves my body towards him in an effort to engage in some way. But, through trial and error, I have learned when to allow it to take its natural path towards him and when I have to seize control and, with great effort, steer my way clear of the man boy.
Throughout the day there are near misses of conversation with him. He will make eye contact, briefly, and I can’t tell if he wants to talk or wants a toaster waffle or a Little Debbie Nutty Bar. Almost sensing a sentence from him, I brace myself and then — like the puff of my last cigarette of my life — the moment is gone.
Owen isn’t a mean person. So, his teen providence isn’t filled with outbursts of emotion of any particular type. The rare moment he is rude or impatient with either of his parents are met with an immediate reminder that we are his parents and that being a teenager is allowed under the Geneva Convention — being rude to them is not.
Last night was different. Maybe it was because I had been at The Lodge for several days. Perhaps it was the endorphins oozing from his body after a track meet.
Or, as I believe, it was Owen taking another step forming himself into the kind of man he will be when he ultimately moves beyond the four walls of his family home.
It began as a simple, “Dad, I have a question.” and it ended with a “Thanks for the conversation. I really enjoyed it”.
What was soon clear to me that he wasn’t looking for an answer to a question. He was looking to see if I knew he was there and that he had valuable thoughts, ideas and opinions.
With his deep set blue eyes that are as intense as those he inherited from his Mother my son pulls me into his world as soon as he makes eye contact. Owen wears the world of who he is on his face. His joy, his despair, his anger, his resignation — everything he is feeling has always been captured on his face.
It is his tell.
More than 20 years ago his Mother’s smile captured my heart. It is the same smile on the lanky young man who is now towering over his father that captured my heart last night.
I see Owen nearly every day. I see a boy who is mastering control over his long limbs. Who is smart beyond anything I could have ever hoped him to be. He is kind, generous, thoughtful and passionate about everything that captures his attention.
He is a teenager who is navigating his way through these years with dignity despite all of the indignity that comes with being a teenager.
As Owen and I discussed what a horrible time it would have been to be a young person in Nazi Germany in World War II, and the unfathomable horror that human beings did to one another, he did not defer to my point of view, nor did he dismiss it.
He simply listened to me and posited back.
I have often told anyone who cares that I have been called many things in life (some good, some bad) and have had many titles and important (debatable) jobs but none are anywhere as important to me as the title of Dad.
Last night this Dad had a glimpse into the eyes of a man and what I saw makes me think the world is going to be okay, and that my son will be a good man in the world.